Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Historial Slice

My Grandmother
It’s funny how sometimes inanimate objects can pull on your heart strings. I was making a raspberry lemon loaf the other day (which I will post about soon) but it called for a rectangle pan that I didn’t have so I used a circular cake pan instead. I was telling my Mom about this when she went to her cupboard and grabbed a rectangular glass pan she wasn’t using. She told me it was my Grandmother’s and that she had two so I could have one. The glass pan had had years of use I could tell by its discolouration. It would never look new again, but somehow seeing its many baking days etched into the pan made it that much more special for me. It was like I had a piece of my Grandmother’s life in my hand and I could picture her baking in the kitchen with my mom and aunts. I never had the opportunity to meet my Grandmother because she died when my mother was young but my mom talked about her often growing up so even though I didn’t meet her, I still feel like I am connected to her. She was an amazing woman and from time to time I see bits and pieces of what she must have been like in my aunts and my mom. It’s now my favourite dish in the kitchen and when I bake with it I picture that she’s baking with me. I wonder what tips and tricks she would have to tell me?
Cream Cheese Banana Bread 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I'm No Cinderella

I’ve made Butternut Squash Soup many times, but never has it been this eventful. Today, I had a friend over for dinner and we decided on Butternut Squash Soup, salad and garlic bread. We were chatting away while the Butternut Squash roasted in the oven so it would be soft enough to add to my pot of tender onions and garlic that were simmering in a glorious dollop of butter.

Everything was going fabulously until I heard my friend say

“I just saw a mouse on your counter.”

Thinking I must be hearing things, I promptly said

“Did you just say you saw a mouse?”

Not thinking much of it because I was expecting the answer to be something else, I was

sadly mistaken when she said

“Yes!" and then jumped to a standing position on her chair.

I have known her for a long time, but never had we discussed her fear of mice. Panic set in, I had food out on the counter, a mouse nearby and a friend now clearly uncomfortable in the upright position. I don't want to say I'm afraid of mice, but my reaction everytime I see them would clearly suggest I am. I have a hard time admitting that something so small and cute could actually scare me. But I guess they do because my husband rescues me everytime I see one. They are erratic and fast and that just doesn't sit well with me. Maybe if I was Cinderella and the mouse made me a very stylish dress I would change my mind, but until then I'm not a fan.

Mr. Mouse, when you tailor this dress for me
then we will discuss permanent residency.
We live in the country, so from time to time I have seen them. But normally it’s when my cat has caught one and decided to show me, not when one is brazen enough to run across the counter. I thought mice were a) Nocturnal and b) Afraid to be out when there were people loudly talking, a 90lb lab walking around and a skilled hunter cat constantly scanning the premises. The mouse was clearly unaware of the rules to abide by when co-habiting in a humans dwelling.

This mouse had to be stopped or we were going out for dinner until my husband came home from work. We devised a plan. I equipped myself with the necessary tools or better word “available” tools for the job- 2 oven mitts and a plastic container. We kept an eye on him as he ran back and forth trying to figure out where to go and then we lost sight of him. The bugger was quick. We decided the best course of action would be to remove everything off of the end of the counter where he had been seen running because then he wouldn’t have anywhere to hide.
Cost effective hazmat suit.
Unorthodox, but effective.
When he jumped out I would put him in the dish and take him outside. Slowly I started moving each item off of the counter. All that was left was the microwave and it was clear he wasn’t there because I slid it all around and there was no sight of him. Then we were perplexed, how did he get away? There was a small opening on my wall so we eased our minds by saying he must have gotten through there and took off.
We both heard that mice can get through very small spaces so that had to be it. Grossed out by it running across my counter I disinfected it all and then started back to dinner. The Butternut Squash Soup smelled delicious and the fresh smell of garlic bread was wafting through the kitchen. I started on the salad as my friend went back to a sitting position and that's when it happened again. Back up on the chair my friend squealed
“The mouse is back!”

I was so confused because where was he coming from? That’s when we realized my dish rack was at the end of the counter and he must have somehow jetted that way when we were busy squinting and squealing. So the oven mitts were back on and I was ready to end this. My friend suggested I use the salad bag I had just emptied and catch him in that. I thought it was a good idea but didn’t know if he would willingly run into it. He kept scooting back and forth on the counter but because everything was off it on one side except my microwave, he had very little place to hide. So when he ran towards the microwave I knew we had a good chance at catching him because the distance to get back to my dish rack was so far that I could throw a towel on him if I had to, to slow him down. I needed a distraction though so I amped up his need for survival by putting my cat up on the counter. I had the salad bag open on the counter as an extra obstacle. 
Towel in oven mitt hands, cat intrigued at its purpose to be up there, I shook the microwave and watched the mouse spring out from under and dodge my cat only to run directly into the salad bag. Stunned by the fact that it had hit a plastic wall and my cat becoming overtly aware of its purpose the mouse had nowhere to go but into the mouth of my cat. I threw my hands over the opening of the bag and closed it up so he couldn’t escape. I jumped so quickly towards the counter in excitement that my foot got a massive cramp in it. Laughing by how ridiculous I looked but cheering in relief that we caught him without my strong husband, I hobbled to my friend to show her he was good and secure in the salad bag. I opened my front door and put him outside, salad bag and all.
With the counter officially mouse-free I finished preparing the rest of the soup and sat down for a very triumphant meal. I don’t think I’ll ever look at bagged salad the same way again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fresh Salad

I am always looking for new salads for work. I get tired of the same ole’ lettuce salad so I was super excited when I came across this recipe.

Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

I don’t often make pasta salads but liked the idea of being able to incorporate asparagus into my lunch. It is a fresh tasting salad and it brought back memories of time at the cottage in the summer. Ah, how I wish winter was over. But until then I’ll just keep making recipes that remind me of that warm, fun time in anticipation of the coming spring and summer this year. It took me 30 minutes to make and I know I could cut that time down easily once I’m more familiar with the recipe! I’m already looking forward to my lunch tomorrow when I pair it with grilled chicken- yummy!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Home Comforts

As far as I’m concerned, I grew up eating the best spaghetti sauce there is available. I’m so convinced of this that I won’t order spaghetti when I go to restaurants because I think it will just be an epic disappointment in comparison to my Dad’s spaghetti sauce. So I might be a little biased, but it’s so good! And it freezes extremely well so you can make it ahead which is just another perk to this perfected recipe.

I have had many family gatherings eating this delicious meal and it reminds me of being at home when I was younger. So many memories gathered around the table enjoying great food and happy stories. When I was a child, I didn’t appreciate it because it was so readily available. But when I went to college and moved out on my own that’s when I realized how lucky I was to have so many hearty, home cooked meals. To this day my Mom and Dad only have to call us and say they are making Dad’s spaghetti sauce for supper and we all “magically” appear at their doorstep for dinner.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce

4 lbs medium hamburger
2-stalks celery chopped
2-green or red peppers chopped
2 lbs sliced mushrooms
1-clove of garlic chopped

Put in large pot and cook above ingredients on medium heat until cooked.
Then add the following and simmer for 4 hours:

4-28fl.oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2- small cans of tomato paste
2 tbsp crushed chilli pepper flakes
2 tsp garlic salt
½ tsp black pepper

Monday, January 16, 2012

Satisfying Stuffed Peppers

There isn’t anything negative to say about this recipe because it is delicious, simple and perfect. I had no trouble at all making it and I was surprised at how flavourful it was.I will definitely be making this again...and again...and again.

Stuffed Pepper Recipe

It’s a doable weeknight meal because it doesn’t take very long to make and I like that it has all the food groups included so you don’t really need anything else to go with it. I ate one pepper and felt sufficiently full. That means a lot coming from a pregnant lady!

If I had to choose something to go with it, I would have added homemade bread. My sister-in-law Tasha came across a great recipe for homemade bread so maybe next time I make stuffed peppers I’ll tackle the challenge of that too!

I’m beginning to see that cooking is not so far out of my element and I’m getting more and more comfortable trying new recipes.

Dare I say, I'm enjoying cooking? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Attention! Introducing General Tso

I have been pretty relaxed with my meal planning recently because I’ve been on holidays for 2 weeks. I was home so I could decide on a whim what I wanted to cook without having to do much preparation in advance.  

But with heading back to work, I knew I had to get back on track so that I wouldn’t be running for the closest drive-thru when my tummy started to grumble. These days it seems I need to eat something every 2 hours to keep the baby and me happy. But, I love food so it far from breaks my heart. However, hoping to only gain baby weight and not just “I’m eating for two weight” I knew a plan was in order. I always aim to make extra of whatever I'm making for supper so I have leftovers for work the next day. With the limits of not being able to have cold meat when pregnant, I quickly ran out of lunch options. Plus, I enjoy having a hot meal at lunch so really it's win-win. I'm saving myself the work of planning a supper and lunch by repeating the same meal the following day.

I was perusing Pinterest (if you haven’t already checked this site out, I suggest you stop what you are doing right now and go to this site! It’s fantastic and has so many great ideas!) Anyways, I came across a recipe for a Healthier version of General Tso’s Chicken and knew immediately that I had to make it. Luckily, I had everything at home already, so I didn’t have to trek out on the snowy day to get ingredients.  If I get something in my head that I want there’s very little I can do to steer it back into any other direction. We’ll blame the pregnancy for my current craving motivations.

This recipe was so easy and I would have never thought that this was something I could make. I will definitely be making this again.

However, I am more of a spice then ginger sorta girl, so I would opt to add more chilli flakes and less ginger next time to give it more zing. I also added orange pepper chunks and think next time I will also add broccoli. I like a lot of vegetables so it’s a good way to add some extra into your meals without compensating on flavour.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Baking Day

Gingerbread cookies are one of my favourite types of cookies. So, when I had a Christmas Baking day in December with my Mom and Sister-in-Law Tash that was my cookie of choice to make.

The recipe was super easy, but my suggestion would be to add more spice, because I felt the cookie was pretty mellow. I opted not to use cloves so I should have added more cinnamon or ginger to balance out the spice ratios.
The thing with Gingerbread is it has to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours so that you can roll it because it gets soft very easily, so it’s not something you can just whip up. But with a little bit of planning, these cookies can easily make it to the dessert table. They are fun to decorate too!

I’ve always been a bigger fan of baking then cooking, which makes sense why I’m more skilled at it because I took an interest in baking when I was little.

Tash opted to make Toblerone Shortbread Cookies and they are delicious and super fast to make! If you’re watching your weight, avoid looking at the calorie count on these puppies because they’re basically butter, sugar and chocolate. But it was a Christmas treat, so we indulged!

Happy Baking!